VA Acknowledges Locked and Lost Records Have Plagued Vets.gov

Editor’s Note: This story updates MeriTalk’s Nov. 15 story, White House Official Warned VA About New Vets.gov Enrollment App; Records Crisis Continues.

The Veterans Health Administration has for the first time acknowledged publicly that software problems with its Online Health Care Application on Vets.gov caused tens of thousands of veteran applications to be locked or lost in the process, forcing the agency to disable the app and pay employees overtime to manually work through the applications.

When asked by MeriTalk Nov. 15 how the agency planned to tackle the interoperability problems that led to records becoming locked or lost during transmission, VHA officials initially stated that they had no knowledge of records being lost or locked. However, the agency retracted that statement Monday. “We knew about the issues and we reverted to utilize modality of processing applications,” a spokesperson said in an email.

As first reported by MeriTalk, VHA officials on June 30 ordered the launch of the Online Health Care Application (HCA) on Vets.gov without notifying or training the vast majority of VA enrollment specialists around the country and despite serious technical problems that led to tens of thousands of applications being lost or locked.

Dozens of new emails provided to MeriTalk by an agency whistleblower show that White House officials, including a member of the U.S. Digital Service, raised questions about the planned launch of the enrollment app and warned officials about potential legal problems. Those new internal VHA emails also show that as of Nov. 4, as many as 65 percent of veteran health care applications remain locked or lost, a situation described by one official as having “DIRECT NEGATIVE IMPACT on the Veteran experience.”

The number of applications estimated to have been affected by problems with HCA stands at 30,000, according to an agency whistleblower. Technical issues forced VHA officials to turn off HCA and route the applications back to an application called “Forum” for processing. All applications submitted through Vets.gov are currently being routed to the respective VA Medical Center into a holding file as they were prior to the activation of Vets.gov. Employees are working overtime to process the backlog.

Dan Verton
About Dan Verton
MeriTalk Executive Editor Dan Verton is a veteran journalist and winner of the First Place Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for Best News Reporting -- the highest award in the nation for business/trade journalism. Dan earned a Master's Degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C., and has spent the last 20 years in the nation's capital reporting on government, enterprise technology, policy and national cybersecurity. He’s also a former intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps, has authored three books on cybersecurity, and has testified on critical infrastructure protection before both House and Senate committees.
11 Comments
  1. Anonymous | - Reply
    This is only a small piece of the Enourmous Unethical pie of Matt Eititus. he has hired all of his friends and buddies i. the last several months. ALL of them st GS15 levels - even his buddy who is a former Assoc Director at Topeka VAMC who is under investigation for having an inappropriate THREE YEAR AFFAIR who one of his employees and who used his VA computer to conduct the affair. Matt just reassigned him to a GS15 Director of VTS in Atlanta at the HEC. All of his hires did NOT have to go through the competitive process. Director of HEC, Director of Internal Controls, COO, Director of Finance. The list is long. He has changed the org chart at least five or six times in as many months creating new offices just for his friends and buddies. And that's just a fraction of his unethical behavior.
  2. Anonymous | - Reply
    Did you hear about how he ordered employees to cancel pending applications? yes that's being done too all in an effort to get the pending application numbers down so that he (Matt Eititus) can look good. last known number of pending applications is circa 900,000! Matt was sent to Atlanta HEC to 'clean up' the pending app issue and under his watch over the last 14 months the issue had grown. He is a liar and should be fired!!! He is directly responsible for DENYING VETERANS THEIR BENEFITS THEY HAVE EARNED AND DESERVE! HIS ONLY quest is to get all his buddies jobs they don't deserve and know nothing about!
  3. Anonymous | - Reply
    Please note that Vets.gov is being touted as a big success by GSA's 18F group, who evidently had a huge hand in the development of the bad code which caused this huge mess. Thanks 18F for helping to screw over our Veterans.
  4. Anonymous | - Reply
    The Department of Veteran's Affairs has a long pattern of criminality and cover-up to harm Veterans. The LEADERSHIP must be flushed, audited, and overseen by an independent Program Oversight organization that reports directly to the White House and President Trump.
  5. Anonymous | - Reply
    The Vets.gov Team is continuing to build other applications for the VA just like the Healthcare Enrollment form. The exact same problem of lost veteran records will be a continuing saga as Vets.gov launches new features. This continues to be a Digital Services failure.
  6. Anonymous | - Reply
    I'm always amazed by the number of comments VA related articles have, it's like VA IT employees are fed up enough to speak their minds. I hope Meritalk takes note and keeps the articles coming daily. With all the things happening in the field if Meritalk is smart they'll dig into OI&T's field operations and let the comments take them in places more interesting than they ever imagined. Start with the CIO and don't stop until you get to the last person willing to talk in the current service line structure. Write a piece that pits the facility staffs against the service line staff and you'll witness unending fireworks. Hint hint...
  7. Anonymous | - Reply
    What bothers me the most is that Matt is putting people in charge of management positions that have absolutely no specialized experience. They are not knowledgeable about VA laws, regulations or directives. They don't even know the basic principles. They are incapable of running any job at the VA; but since they are friends, ex-coworkers, neighbors and all worked together at DOD, that is what is getting them the job. Matt wants puppets he can control. Blatant prohibited personnel practices are going on. I am starting to wonder if anyone is left at DOD. Ha Ha Ha! Qualifications don't matter. A Health Eligibility Center director was chosen and was only with the VA for 3 months and came from DEA. She went from a GS12 to a GS15 in 3 months. Well, it is not a drug problem at the VA; it is abuse of power, waste, fraud, and gross mismanagement that is going on at the Agency. Contract money with no one assigned to oversee the funds. It is much worse than it what was before Matt and his looney tune characters diverged on the Agency. It was a hostile take over. Then OIG comes to the agency and barely looked at anything; then cleared the Health Eligibility Center as if the problems where fixed. It is one big joke and cover up. It is a shame the Veterans; such as myself, my brothers, and my sons have to suffer due to incompetence. They are not even capable of running a day care center for the mentally challenged (no offense to them). There is no one we can trust to care for the Veterans. They want the appearance of trying to fix the problem to pacify the public and the media. A class action law suit is needed before we get these dummies out of management and that may not help! They have protection from the VA Deputy Under Secretary and the Secretary. It is idiots with no brain cells (zombies) in charge. Let's not even talk about the amount of travel dollars being wasted during this time of technology; such as online meetings that can be used. The Whistleblower laws mean nothing. Another joke. As soon as you report a problem you are marked for the rest of your VA career. I will continue to pray; because VA needs divine intervention.
  8. Anonymous | - Reply
    Amen the previous post; same problems on the VBA side!
  9. Anonymous | - Reply
    Matt is a blatant racist. Stevie Wonder can see he removed all people of color from their positions and replaced them with his buddies. I personally applied for several positions at the HEC and was best qualified. Only to receive an email 4 times saying they will not be hiring from that certificate . Next thing you know Matt's buddies are in those positions. Sounds like a class action lawsuit if you ask me. Let's talk about the inappropriate relationships that are happening between management and subordinates. Let's stalk about the nepotism, and special favors that are happening at the HEC. Matt continues to bring persons into positions that they are not qualified to manage. Bottom line!
  10. Anonymous | - Reply
    This is the worst transformation in VA history. VA has been plagued with corruption by the highest officials yet the word "accountability" has taken on a new meaning for a segment of the population. In VA, under Matthew Eitutis leadership "accountability" signals a hall pass to treat minorities disparately and to blatantly discriminate against employees who look different than he does. As a VA manager I find his behavior to be disgusting. He feels he is shielded from "accountability" by top VA officials, but they will not be able to protect him much longer. He should face justice for his wrongdoing. Public corruption, waste of government funds and not the mention the use of government funds for personal reasons is illegal. VA leadership, how dare you to bring Matthew Eitutis to the agency to terrify people? I've never been more outraged by what I've seen and experienced by Matthew and his team. Let's not allow him to reduce to disgruntled employees, when that is so far from the truth instead exercise your freedom of speech. There is power in numbers, so continue to make a stand and speak out. I will not breathe a sigh of relief until the truth is told. To the honest and hardworking VA employees - don't allow reprisal or intimidation to obstruct your freedom of speech. Veterans matter, all people matter. Let the evidence speak for itself. Hopefully, President Elect Trump will call for an investigation into his illegal acts. The current leadership has proven that accountability does not apply to all, just certain employees.
  11. Anonymous | - Reply
    Well said! "I have more respect for a man who let's me know where he stands, even if he's wrong. Than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil." X

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